Yvonne Magawa (ESAWAS), Batsirai Majuru (WHO), Bisi Agberemi (UNICEF), Jan-Willem Rosenboom
& Alyse Schrecongost (BMGF)Faecal sludge transport workers in Kenya - UNICEF/UN0348903/Modola
This blog is part of a series for World Toilet Day highlighting issues within the WHO-UNICEF State of the World’s Sanitation report. The topic of sanitation regulation is also covered in 'Catalysing Citywide Sanitation For All Through Regulating Service Providers' by IWA's Regulation for Citywide Inclusive Sanitation initiative's advisory and taskforce members - Yvonne Magawa (ESAWAS), Diego Polania (CRA), and Gustavo Saltiel (World Bank).
For too long sanitation, specifically on-site sanitation systems such as septic tanks and pit latrines, have been left in the realm of household responsibility.
The scant investments available for urban sanitation gravitate towards sewered infrastructure, reaching small proportions of large urban areas, primarily wealthier populations. Urban populations continue to grow rapidly, often in dense settlements with limited basic public services or infrastructure. Particularly for sanitation, households are forced to make do, covering the costs of basic access for themselves. The very nature of safe sanitation, however, means that the decisions and priorities of individuals are largely decoupled from what would be required to protect public health, the environment, and reach the poorest. Services for safely containing, emptying, transporting and treating human waste, and preventing pits and septic tanks from contaminating groundwater and open drains are needed, but without regulation, investments will not prioritize public health outcomes.
This situation is both unfair to the households and ineffective in achieving a primary purpose of sanitation: protecting public health. Sanitation is fundamentally a public good. Individuals’ decisions maximize their own best interest – they do not necessarily serve the best interests of society at large.
Investments in sanitation need to be planned, regulated and financed to align the priorities of individual households with those of service providers. This alignment is required to address the broader social goals of public health protection, cleaner environments, and stronger economies. Among the countries that have made extraordinary gains in a generation, a common factor among them has been strong political leadership that clarified public goals, gave clear mandates to the responsible authorities to achieve those goals, regulated authorities’ delivery of services, and mobilized the corresponding investments needed.
Where utilities manage sewers, generally those utilities have a defined, public service-oriented mandate, performance accountability, and financing strategies. Over two thirds of countries have environmental standards for wastewater treatment.
Beyond sewered areas, urban sanitation remains a public good, but it is largely delivered by unorganized and unregulated private or informal actors. Few countries have standards for faecal sludge treatment or safe reuse of wastewater or sludge. Individual providers of emptying and transport services may or may not be subject to a smattering of on-paper regulatory codes or standards. Where standards exist, they are almost universally decoupled from efforts to monitor, incentivize or enforce compliance. As a result, less than a third of mandated oversight agencies are able to carry out the basic functions of monitoring and enforcement.
Robust regulatory systems can address the market failures of urban sanitation to protect public health and incentivize delivery of safe, inclusive, and viable services. We highlight three issues critical to pursuit of this outcome that merit case studies, discussion, and sector learning and evolution.
First, regulations can help to better link sanitation services to public health protections. Simple statement but not a simple task. Regulation of sanitation services has long lagged behind that of water services: only 1 in 5 countries have any indicators for sanitation service quality. If sanitation services are to protect public health, then public health-aligned guidance and oversight must become the expected norm in all countries, for sewered and non-sewered sanitation systems alike. Health outcomes must be designed into simple, transparent and effective by-laws, codes and standards; actionable and funded monitoring and enforcement systems are required to make those standards meaningful. To achieve this, systems must be designed in collaboration with public health authorities. Public health risk assessment and risk management priorities must underpin product and service standards along the full sanitation service chain. This includes measures to address the specific health risks, stigma and marginalization faced by sanitation workers in unregulated settings.
Second, as with public health regulation, the focus of economic and performance regulation of sanitation services must be on safe, inclusive services, irrespective of the infrastructure used. Failure to focus mandates and regulatory frameworks on service outcomes instead of infrastructure inputs exacerbates systemic inequity and exclusion. In most cases, providers of non-sewered products and services remain unregulated and unorganized retail actors. They deliver services with wide variability in price and quality, with little accountability for the quality of their service to households or for public health. Market structuring – particularly economic and performance regulation of services – is required if public or private providers are to be incentivized to protect public health, to reach low income communities, and to mobilize investment and innovation. Economic regulatory tools can help align customer inclusion and affordability goals with providers’ financial interests.
Finally, if the public sector is well-structured and regulated, it can increase business opportunity, available finance, and incentivize investment in innovation to meet health and inclusivity goals. Recognizing sanitation as a public good does not imply that the public sector has sole responsibility for delivering public services. Indeed, without structuring sanitation as a public service, opportunities for private sector engagement are more restricted, higher risk, less effective, less profitable, and less aligned with the public good. Tools and business models that align public, customer, and provider interests have not always been clear, but promising innovations are emerging in urban markets in Kenya, Malaysia, Zambia, and other countries. In these areas, regulators are insisting on improved sector outcomes. They are also supporting utilities and the private sector to learn and grow as the sector transforms and more is expected of everyone.
Significant challenges remain. In many countries sanitation is entirely managed by municipalities. Municipal service systems tend to be subject to individuals’ short term political interests, missing accountability mechanisms, and with limited flexibility to generate or ringfence revenue effectively. Treatment compliance or the relationship between customer-based revenue mechanisms and service quality can be opaque.
We have good reason to believe that well-designed regulatory systems can accelerate global progress toward SDG 6.2 and 6.3, and improve public health. The WHO Guidelines on Sanitation and Health provide a useful point of departure in addressing public health criteria in sanitation regulations, and articulating the role of the health sector in sanitation authorities’ service provision.
In addition, a new publication – the WHO-UNICEF State of the World’s Sanitation – launching today draws attention to the role of regulators in solving the sanitation crisis. The report brings together lessons from high-achieving countries, and presents a vision of what is needed to deliver universal access to safe sanitation. It calls for urgent action around five areas: governance; financing; capacity development; data; and innovation, and highlights leadership, effective coordination and regulation as effective pathways for achieving safe sanitation for all. Building on the directions outlined in the report, WHO and other partners working with regulators’ networks such as the East and Southern Africa Water and Sanitation (ESAWAS) Regulators Association and the WHO International Network of Drinking-water and Sanitation Regulators (RegNet), will work to create concrete and contextualized changes in regulation of sanitation services that can inform future updates of the report.
Health is a human right, and tactics learned from the human rights movement can help ensure every person access to the highest standard of sexual and reproductive health.
WHO, HRP and partners present a new documentary series about the power of people to change the world.
Every individual on the planet has the right to the highest standard of health and well-being in all aspects of their sexuality, their body and their reproductive choices – but there is no ‘one size fits all’ strategy for making this a reality.
Right To A Better World is a documentary video series produced by WHO and HRP, in partnership with UN Human Rights (OHCHR) and the Oxford Human Rights Hub (OxHRH). It explores how tactics developed by the human rights movement can be used to achieve sexual and reproductive health rights, and drive meaningful progress towards the fulfillment of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
“A human rights-based approach to health is essential to achieving my top priority as DG – universal health coverage,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, when he signed the 2017 WHO-OHCHR Framework of Cooperation.
Right To A Better World builds on this major milestone for health and human rights, affirming that rights holders and their experiences belong at the centre of every discussion and decision affecting them.
“The achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development hinges on the realization of human rights, which necessitates action across sectors and disciplines,” said Veronica Birga, Chief of Women's Human Rights and Gender Section of UN Human Rights. “The lessons in this series created through a multi-disciplinary partnership are invaluable and make it clear that securing rights for all, is not only the right way, but the smart way to achieve truly sustainable development.”
There are four 20-minute thematic episodes in Right To A Better World, all free to access: contraception , comprehensive sexuality education maternal mortality and morbidity , and violence against women .
“This powerful series creates a unique synergy between academic and practical human rights approaches, vividly demonstrating the key role human rights can play when advocating for sexual and reproductive health rights in political, legal, and international forums,” said Professor Sandra Fredman, Director of OxHRH.
“The “Right to a Better World” series bridge the communicative divide between health and human rights practitioners, throwing the spotlight on the importance of addressing not only health outcomes but the underlying gender inequalities, stereotypes and structures,” adds Dr Meghan Campbell, Deputy Director at OxHRH.
Although health outcomes and the achievement of rights have improved for many across these core components of sexual and reproductive health, progress overall remains fragile and uneven.
In each episode across the series, experts in health and human rights share their professional struggles and successes working on the frontline of communities worldwide. As advocates and activists, they represent a broad range of professional fields, ages, levels and backgrounds.
The episodes can be watched at home, in groups and in classroom settings. Viewers are encouraged to learn from the experiences shared, and consider how tactics could be adapted to their own contexts.
“Human rights are the key to ensuring every person has access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care, and WHO and HRP are committed to mainstreaming human rights into health policies and programmes. Our partnership with UN Human Rights and OxHRH affirms that in the changing landscape of sexual and reproductive health, human rights must be heard as loudly as clinical and scientific research,” said Ian Askew, Director of the WHO Department of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Research including HRP.
Join the conversation at #RightToABetterWorld.
Right To A Better World VIDEOS Comprehensive sexuality education (episode 1 of 4)
Building support and understanding of every young person’s right to education, health and well-being, in an inclusive and gender equal society.Contraception (episode 2 of 4)
Ensuring each woman's and adolescent’s right to make decisions about their reproductive health and future.Maternal mortality and morbidity (episode 3 of 4)
Ensuring every woman's and adolescent’s right to not only survive pregnancy and childbirth, but have a positive experience of this profound life event.
Violence against women (episode 4 of 4)
Building a world in which women and girls are free from all forms of violence and discrimination.
OUT NOW: Special edition cover of "We Are Family" available for download in Support of WHO Foundation!
- Re-recorded by Kim Sledge, part of the legendary multi-Gold and Platinum recording music group Sister Sledge, and presented by Natasha Mudhar, Founder of the global social impact enterprise The World We Want, a special edition cover of the classic We Are Family song will be accompanied by a crowdsourced music video, with members of the public joining frontline health heroes and a host of A-list celebrities, such as global superstar Rita Ora, in a spectacular sing-along video, out in December.
- Individuals and families can submit their sing-along video clips for a chance to star in the official music video until 30 November.
- Proceeds from the download of the new cover are being donated to the WHO Foundation, with the support of the World Health Organization, to address global health challenges such as COVID-19.
9 November 2020, LONDON/GENEVA: The special edition cover of the timeless hit We Are Family, re-recorded by one member of the iconic multi-Gold and Platinum recording music group Sister Sledge, Kim Sledge, presented by Natasha Mudhar, Founder of the global social impact enterprise The World We Want, and supported by the World Health Organization, is now officially available for download worldwide from leading digital music stores such as iTunes, Spotify and Amazon Music.
The song, an upbeat cover of the classic anthem that saw the group rise to stardom in 1979, is being released as an inspiring call for global solidarity to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and to generate proceeds in benefit of the WHO Foundation to address the most pressing global health challenges of our time, such as COVID-19.
Global icons such as multi-award winning critically-acclaimed artist Rita Ora, soul-singing legend Heather Small (singer of 2000’s hit Proud) and Formula One hero Romain Grosjean are just some of the big name supporters of the sing-along music video for the new cover, which is also open to the global public to submit their videos up until 30 November, to officially release worldwide this December. Short video platform TikTok is supporting the campaign, offering users the chance to sing along to, record and share their own videos there as well.
The special edition cover was officially released online for download in conjunction with today’s opening of the resumed 73rd World Health Assembly, at which Kim Sledge performed the track with the support of the Tongan Nurses Choir
The special re-recorded cover, star-studded music video, social media campaign and fundraising initiative has been conceptualised by Natasha Mudhar, Founder, The World We Want, and supported by WHO. The inspiration to release a special edition of the classic track initially came early this year as communities around the world were left reeling from the impact of COVID-19.
Join the We Are Family video campaign
In support of the song's release, people from around the world can submit videos of themselves singing along to We Are Family for inclusion in a unique and inspiring compilation video for release in December 2020. This video will feature members of the global public, celebrities, leaders and health heroes, to honour the incredible work of the frontline workforces risking their lives around to save ours, and all those around the world who have been affected by the pandemic.
Download the Special Edition Cover of We Are Family
For a list of all major digital music stores where you can download the song, visit www.unitystrong.com
Steps to be part of the We Are Family video:
To submit sing-along videos of the Special Edition Cover Version of the We Are Family song, the key steps are:
- Download the Special Edition Cover of We Are Family, in benefit of the WHO Foundation.
- Record yourself singing to the Special Edition Cover of We Are Family either alone, or with friends and family, whilst observing physical distancing guidelines.
- Share the video on your favourite social media channel, with the hashtag #WeAreFamily #COVID19 #HealthforAll and tag @WHO, @The_WorldWeWant and @thewhof.
- Upload your video to https://unitystrong.com.
- If you want your video to be considered for inclusion in the global, We Are Family video; you will need to share your video by Monday, 30 November 2020.
- Video clips will be selected based on age, geographical diversity, and appropriate physical distancing if the video includes groups of people beyond immediate family members and correct handwashing if singing along to the song while washing hands.
- More details, including Terms & Conditions, can be found here www.unitystrong.com.
The World We Want: WAFmedia@theworldwewant.global
Official quotes for the We Are Family Campaign:
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of the World Health Organization: “We Are Family is more than a song. It is a call to action for collaboration and kindness, and a reminder of the strength of family and the importance of coming together to help others in times of need.
“Now more than ever, communities and individuals all over the world need to heed this message and come together, as a global family, to support each other through this COVID-19 challenge, and to remember that our health and wellbeing is our most precious gift. I am grateful to Kim Sledge and The World We Want for sharing this masterpiece and message of hope with us all. It is only through national unity and global solidarity that we will overcome COVID-19 and ensure people all over the world attain the highest level of health and well-being."
Kim Sledge, vocalist, philanthropist, novelist, songwriter, producer and Minister: "From the doctors and nurses on the front lines, to the paramedics and police, from the midwives and scientists to the carers for the vulnerable, the We Are Family campaign will salute each and every one with a feeling of unity, strength and solidarity in response to the unprecedented challenges the world faces as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.”
Natasha Mudhar, founder of The World We Want and the driving force behind the #WeAreFamily campaign: “We Are Family is one of the most instantly recognizable anthems in the world. The song carries such an inspiring message of unity and solidarity and brings about a real sense of togetherness when sung aloud! We hope everybody loves the song, supports the campaign and sends in their videos to be part of a spectacular music video for a great cause. This is a rallying cry for togetherness, for the strength of our global family. We are all together during these times.”
WHO launches new roadmap on human resource strategies to ensure that all newborns survive and thrive
Every year, an estimated 15 million babies are born preterm – before 37 weeks of pregnancy. That is more than 1 in 10 live births. Approximately 1 million children die each year worldwide due to complications from their early birth. Those that survive often face a lifetime of ill-health including disability, learning difficulties, and visual and hearing problems.
Half of the babies born at or below 32 weeks (2 months early) die in low-income settings, due to a lack of feasible, cost-effective care, such as warmth, breastfeeding support, and basic care for infections and breathing difficulties. In high-income countries, almost all these babies survive.
Today, on World Prematurity Day, WHO launched a new Roadmap on human resource strategies to improve newborn care in health facilities in low- and middle-income countries, aimed at improving quality of care for newborns, including small and sick babies, and supporting countries to achieve the SDG target to reduce neonatal mortality to less than 12 per 1000 live births by 2030.
As the COVID-19 pandemic overburdens already weak health systems in many countries, it is expected to increase the number of newborn deaths, particularly among babies born too soon. Disrupted essential health services, like family planning or antenatal check-ups, will leave women more at risk of preterm birth and vulnerable infants without the services they need.
“We have the power to prevent, diagnose and treat preterm birth, and save babies lives, if we invest in competent and specialized nurses and health workers to care for them,” Dr Anshu Banerjee, WHO Director for the Department of Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health and Ageing. “As more pregnant women give birth in health facilities, we must also strengthen our health workforce to provide a positive pregnancy experience for each of them.”
Survival and health outcomes of preterm newborns can be enhanced by increasing access to interventions provided to the mother shortly before or during birth as well as interventions for the newborn baby. However, the highest burden of preterm birth, death and disability is concentrated in low- and middle-income countries, where competent and specialized health workers are in short supply.
Of the 30 million newborns who require inpatient care every year, approximately half do not have access to neonatal care services and those who have access often receive care of suboptimal quality. Skilled birth attendants, including medical doctors and midwives, are critical to the provision of high-quality newborn care and to improving newborn outcomes, not only at the time of birth and for routine postnatal care but also in health facilities to which mothers and newborns with complications are referred.
The new WHO roadmap consists of 10 strategies to guide countries in developing their policies to improve the number and competence of health workers to deliver high-quality essential care for all newborns and specialized care for small and sick newborns. It also aims to fill the gap in the numbers of health workers with specialized neonatal skills in low- and middle-income countries required to provide high-quality inpatient care for small and sick newborns.
Over the past three decades countries that have invested in their nursing and midwifery workforces have achieved sustained reductions in maternal and newborn mortality. With continued investments in universal access to high-quality newborn care an estimated 1.7 million newborns could be saved each year. Almost half of the effect would result from providing special and intensive hospital care for preterm, low-birth-weight or sick newborns.Link to new roadmap